Stop-Win and Stop-Loss Limits: 3 Reasons Why You Are Doing It Wrong

Many players will advise you that setting a stopping point when you are ahead or behind by a certain amount in a cash game, is a good idea.

While there is some merit to stopping when you are behind if the circumstances are no longer ideal, this is not a magic formula.

Stop loss - Stop Win limits
Stop loss – Stop Win limits

Stopping a session will have no impact on variance

Some believe that when variance is biting during a difficult session, the problem can be alleviated by ending the session. Those who subscribe to this theory believe that when they reopen the tables later their luck will have been reset, but the truth is, luck just doesn’t work that way.

You cannot skip bad situations that would have happened by ending a session. Every hand you play in your life is a random hand that comes off the top of a deck of cards. Luck has no memory and never changes based on what has happened before. When you quit a session, the probability of the next hand being a fortunate or unfortunate one for you is exactly the same as it would have been if you’d simply stayed and been dealt the next hand in your session. If you have been dealt pocket aces twice in a row, the odds of being dealt aces next hand remain the same.

Streaks where your variance runs well above or below expectancy do happen, but you can’t foresee or affect them by closing a session.

Stopping when you are in front does not optimise your profits, it harms them

Having an amount of profit that triggers you to close a session and book your win is also something that relies on flawed logic. Protecting your win is meaningless when you think of your poker playing life as a continuous stream of millions of hands. The exact points at which you choose to stop or restart a session will never affect the profit you make over your life by even one cent.

If you are ahead in a game, but want to sit out because you feel that the game is no longer profitable for you, that’s a sensible decision based on logical judgement. The longer you stay at a table if you are an underdog, the more you hurt your profit margins.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, if you are a winning player in the game you are sat in, why stop simply because you are ahead? Every hand you play will yield profit, so provided you are feeling sharp, keep playing hands. The longer you keep playing in this game, the more money you will end up with, on average.

Another important point to remember is that is you approach poker professionally, then putting in the necessary volume of hands in the correct games is where your monthly earnings will come from, and stopping sessions early only hinders the amount of volume you put in, hurting your income.

Stopping when you are ahead is also significantly worse than stopping when behind, because it’s normally while winning that we are playing our best and feeling good about our game. If you are feeling that way, you should be playing. If you feel relaxed and as though you are playing well, you may even consider adding more hands to your session.

Having a stop-loss figure is not the best way to tackle tilt

Some players will say that having a stop loss figure helps to minimise the amount of time they are playing while tilted, thus improving their earnings. There is some truth in this, and you should stop at any time you think you are not playing well enough to beat the game you are in, but it’s not a long-term solution for tilt.

Firstly, it’s very hard to stick to a stop loss when tilt occurs. The tilt itself can make players keep going without consideration of their own rules. Setting up a stop-loss can be a short-term contingency plan, but it is not bullet-proof and is not the long-term fix that you need.

In reality, there are always underlying reasons why you are getting angry at the table. Few of them are rational when you really dissect poker and how the game works. People might think luck owes them the pot because they hold aces, or that an opponent is getting more than they are entitled to. They might play shorter sessions because they are running bad and feel unmotivated or afraid of another losing session. All these things have their roots in emotions which relate to illogical thinking.

The main emotion driving tilt is in fact fear, in all its forms. If the brain feels threatened, strong emotional responses can be produced which drown out the ability to think clearly. Brain functions are proven to be reduced when emotions are way too high. Whenever these brain functions start to become reduced due to emotion, you are experiencing tilt, to some degree or other.

This means that in order to eradicate tilt completely, you need to confront your deepest fears…

Article by Craig Bradshaw